|Ahead of print publication
Craze for Publishing Research in “Foreign” Journals: Are we Justified
Neurology Department, Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad, Telangana, India
|Date of Submission||07-Jun-2020|
|Date of Decision||19-Jul-2020|
|Date of Acceptance||25-Sep-2020|
Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad - 500 096, Telangana
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
A doctor's work usually involves a mix of three-patient care, teaching, and research. Research forms an important aspect of a doctors' career. New knowledge gained from the research needs to be shared with other medical professionals so that more patients could benefit from it. Dissemination of research mostly happens through publications in medical journals.
| Why are Publications Important?|| |
- Publications help in disseminating knowledge to a wider audience
- Publications are needed in teaching institutions for promotions to higher academic posts. As per the Medical Council of India (MCI) guidelines, two research publications are required to be recognized as a postgraduate teacher. In broad or super specialties, for the post of Associate Professor, one must have two research publications in indexed journals as 1st author or corresponding author. For the post of Professor or Additional Professor, one must have four research publications in indexed journals, including two as 1st author or corresponding author
- Research publications form an important part of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council accreditation criteria. One hundred points out of a maximum score of 1000 are awarded on the basis of research publications for accreditation of a university
- Publications enhance the reputation of authors among their peers. Doctors with higher number of publications are well respected among their colleagues as well as the hospital administrators
- Publications may lead to new offers for clinical trials or teaching assignments, which could be financially rewarding too. Research grants and funding opportunities increase with higher number of publications,
Research presented in conferences may be forgotten over time, whereas research published in journals remains forever. Doctors, being scientists too, are duty-bound to publish papers. Most doctors prefer foreign journals to publish their research papers. I have always heard from my seniors that “if you have a good paper, aim for a foreign journal.” “If you have an average or not so good article, send them to Indian journals.”
| Why do we Have this Fascination for Foreign Journals?|| |
- It could be that many of the international journals have been there for several decades and they are widely known. For instance, the British Medical Journal was established in 1840 (until 1857, it was known as the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal). Similarly, the publication of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) started in 1812 (it was named The NEJM and surgery and the collateral branches of medical science in the initial years). The first issue of The Lancet journal was published in 1823. These journals are well known throughout the world. On the other hand, most of the Indian journals are relatively “younger” and globally not well recognized
- People generally feel that publications from the USA, the UK, and other foreign countries are better and more prestigious
- Many of the foreign journals have higher “impact factors.” The National Institutional Ranking Framework, Government of India, uses citation index (top 25 citations in the previous three years) as one of the parameters for ranking of medical colleges. It should be noted, however, that it was never meant for ranking of individual doctors or faculty
Citation count of research papers may not represent their true quality in many instances. Various factors have been found to influence the number of citations. These include impact factor of the journal, counts of online hits, nationality of authors, number of authors, number of pages, online availability (access), male gender of authors, and authors with surnames in the first half of the alphabet.
- Publications in foreign journals may help more in career growth
In earlier days (preinternet era), it was very difficult to access journals. One had to visit the library and go through bound (and often dusty) volumes of hard copies of journals, and it took several hours to access articles. Many times, important articles would be missing (as someone had torn those pages from the journals). Moreover, many medical colleges would not subscribe to many journals, and it was a nightmare for doctors of those medical colleges to access journal articles. However, things have much improved in the internet era. Today, one can access any journal article from the comfortable confines of home or office (through computers or smartphones).
| Do we need to Revisit our Strategy of Preferring Foreign Journals?|| |
- Indian journals are more accessible to Indians and foreigners. This is because all Indian journals have their online versions
- Most of the Indian journals are “free access” and one need not pay to download an article. On the other hand, most of the foreign journals require paid subscriptions. For example, one needs to pay 20 US dollars to access an article in NEJM for a period of 24 h
- Free content in Indian medical journals ensures a wider readership across the world. Therefore, it is more likely today that if one publishes in Indian journals, more number of people can access the paper, as compared to, if it was published in a foreign journal with “paid access”
- Discrimination and bias in manuscript selection: Most of you may have noted that a very good paper authored by an Indian stands a chance of rejection by a foreign journal. On the other hand, not so good articles written by foreign authors stand a higher chance of acceptance. You may be aware of the recent fiasco about the papers published in NEJM and The Lancet that reported a lack of efficacy as well as safety hazards of hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19. The Lancet paper was later retracted by the authors due to inconsistent dataset and dubious peer-review process. Some have used a trick of including one or two foreign authors in their papers to increase the chances of acceptance
- Regarding impact factor of Indian journals, it is partly in our hands. As mentioned, most of us still prefer foreign journals to publish our best research papers and leave the inferior research to be published in our Indian Journals. If we reverse this preference, and choose Indian Journals for our best papers, in the future, we can see their impact factors rising
- Many of our health issues are different from those of foreign countries, especially the West. For example, we still see a lot of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, dengue, and leprosy. Research in these areas is important for us and not so much for the West. Hence, it makes more sense to publish research about these diseases in Indian Journals. In other areas too, we see some differences. In neurology, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis is typically more common in India than in the West. In cardiology, rheumatic heart disease is more common here, though the incidence has rapidly declined now. Hence, publishing about these conditions in Indian journals would be more useful.
| Conclusion|| |
Hence, after “Make-in-India” and “Buy Indian” campaigns, we need to add one more slogan to our list: “Publish in Indian Journals.” The most important international platforms for medical journal literature are PubMed, PubMed Central, Scopus, Medline, and Web of Science. There are a stringent set of criteria for a journal to get included in one of these databases. It is unfortunate that many good Indian journals do not find a place in those databases, and it takes several years for them to get indexed in these international databases. IndMed is an Indian medical journal database, produced under the Indian Council of Medical Research-funded project. However, it is unfortunate that MCI recognizes only foreign indexing databases such as PubMed, Medline, Scopus, Index Medicus, and Index Copernicus. Research publications listed on IndMed are not recognized by MCI. If MCI starts recognizing IndMed, it would encourage Indian authors in choosing Indian journals to publish their research instead of chasing only foreign medical journals.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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